Castleton. An area which conquered the hearts of Celts, Romans and later on Normans.. well, more their pockets than hearts but we will get to that later.
Castleton is a lovely old town located in the Hope Valley, Derbyshire (S33 8WG). Surrounded by many caverns and mountains, Castleton is the perfect place for a whole family day out. The most popular destination in this area is Mam Tor, also known as the 'Shivering Mountain’. It has been established that the main landslide of Mam Tor originated at least 3000 years ago and is recognized as one of the major land movements in the British Isles. The mountain was first inhabited by the Celts, and the remains of the old Iron Age hill fort and large enclosure can still be seen on the summit. The rich mines in the area quickly became very attractive for the Romans who soon took over the area.
There was possibly an Anglo Saxon settlement on the east side of the village near Hope, as there is an embankment running through the village, and s shaped strip fields on the east side, known as furlongs.
In 1066, William the Conqueror arrived in England and after winning the Battle of Hastings in 1066 he scouted the conquered lands. Straight away he knew that such riches of precious metals and stones cannot be left unprotected. He ordered to build a castle which was given in 1086 to his son, William Peveril. The Peveril Castle and its owner are also mentioned in the Domesday Book. The castle never saw a battle and fell into ruin after 1480.
So, here we are, in 2020, rediscovering the area. There are multiple parking opportunities. There is a large car park next to the tourist centre, near the Peak Cavern and a smaller one near the Speedwell Cavern. There are also numerous parking spots on the main road. If you don’t have a car you can always travel by bus or train.
Castleton has a small bus station from where buses depart hourly to Sheffield, Tideswell, Bakewell, Buxton, Baslow, and Chesterfield. The railway station is in Hope (1.9 miles away) but the good news is that the train tickets to Hope and Edale are valid on connecting buses to Castleton.
When approaching Mam Tor you can do it from different starting points. You can do a full walk from the Castleton Information Centre, through the Winnats Pass and Windy Knoll or you can try to climb it from the other side via the Old Mam Tor Road. If you want to cut the walk short you can park your car directly on the Mam Tor National Trust Car Park and then climb only the last section of the trial.
Click on the video below if you want to find out how to get to the National Trust Car Park.
For a full experience just leave your car in Castleton main car park near the Tourist Information. Right next to it there is a large information board with all the attractions, so you can easily find what you are looking for. It also gives you a chance to visit the historical exhibition inside and find out a bit more about the region. If you want to grab a coffee or some hot food before you go on your adventure you can visit the local pubs and cafés.
From the car park follow the main road towards the Mam Tor. The walk is very pleasant and lets you enjoy the beautiful views. There are plenty of signs along the way to also direct you to different attractions. Stick to the right side and in no time you will reach the Treak Cliff Cavern, where the lead miners discovered large deposits of Blue John stone. All Tours in the cavern are guided and last approximately 40 minutes. Dogs are welcome on a lead and photography is allowed.
Further down you will come across the Odin Mine, which is the oldest lead mine in the country. In the summer the footpath is usually open however, during winter season it might be blocked due to safety reasons. Right opposite the mine is another footpath leading to a small stream and the remains of the old ore crusher. Here is also the final point which you can reach by car as due to a landslip in 1977 the A625 route has been destroyed.
You can still carry on your walk but be ready for some tricky passages and steep hills every now and then. You can reach the summit by choosing the path to the left or right – it is entirely up to you which approach will be more suitable for your skills. From here you can not only reach the Mam Tor summit but also see the Blue John Cavern.
The second trail, via the Winnats Pass, is longer but also more rewarding. Your parking options are more or less the same only this time, if you decide to use the Castleton Tourist Information Car Park, instead of going right, near the Peak Cavern, turn left, towards the Speedwell Cavern. From here, follow the main road, until you have reached the top of the pass. There is no clear footpath leading through Winnats Pass so be ready for a muddy walk.
Once at the top, you should see a crossroad. Turn right, towards Blue John Cavern and follow the road until you see the Windy Knoll sign on your left. Cross the road and follow the path turning towards Mam Tor. You can also skip Windy Knoll and just stick to the road which should lead you to the Mam Tor National Trust Car Park.
This is the official Mam Tor path which means it is well prepared. However, you can simply start the climb a bit earlier as from this point there are multiple small paths leading towards the top. Make sure you have your hat with you as it is always very windy at the top. If you are lucky, you might witness a number of hang gliders and parascenders simply flying right above your head!
Most of the hikers, while climbing the Mam Tor summit, also decide to conquer the Back Tor and Loose Hill, as together they create The Great Ridge. The sequence in which you decide to climb the peaks is not important as the approach from both sides is well prepared. There is only one footpath leading through the summits so you can’t get lost. There is also a separate section designated as a path for bikes. Once at the top of Mam Tor simply follow the main path which should lead you the Hollins Cross memorial.
Here you can also cut the walk short if you wish and climb down towards Castleton. If you continue along the ridge you should reach the Back Tor. The path here is steep and has a lot of loose rocks so be careful when ascending.
Your final climb is the Lose Hill (476m) also called Ward’s Piece, in honour of G.H.B. ‘Bert’ Ward, ‘The King of the Clarion Ramblers’. The view from Lose Hill is amazing and the metal carved top of the trig point gives you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with all the names of the peaks you can see in the distance.
The full circular walk is just over 8 miles long but most of the hikers stick only with the Great Ridge walk which is about 6 miles both ways. It is a well-prepared walk, however, if you decide to take this walk during winter season you might be forced to slide down in few sections as due to the strong wind the path gets covered with ice.